The Humanist Manifesto II
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Humanism -- not to be confused with secular humanism -- had its roots in ancient times, when Greeks and Romans thought of their gods as much less divine and all-powerful than the God of monotheistic religions. The humanist typically believes that man is the ultimate value in the universe and that, through human reason, all that is can be discovered.
Many of the great philosophers of the Renaissance era were religious humanists, compartmentalizing both a belief in God, and a reverence for classical thought for its own sake, not related to religion. Probably the best-known humanist of the era was Erasmus, who is crediting with introducing the concept to England, and saw it become established at Oxford and Cambridge.
Humanism remained uncodified until 1933, when thirty-four well-known adherents put their heads together to come up with a common set of humanist precepts. The authors of the original Manifesto refer to humanism as a religion, and accepted in part its relationship to other systems of faith. In Torcaso v. Watkins (1961), the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that humanism constitutes a religion. When Manifesto II was propounded in 1973, the last traces of spirituality were removed from the belief system, which can now be correctly referred to as secular humanism.
The record of humanism -- which further describes itself as centered on the dignity and worth of the individual -- is one of gradual abandonment of moral absolutes in favor of human tendencies, a precept by nature opposed to the Judeo-Christian view that man is imperfect and imperfectable, and requires divine guidance at some level. As such, besides depriving mankind of spiritual comfort, humanism risks devolution into the extremes of human communion, totalitarianism and anarchy -- both anathemic to the dignity of the individual.
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The Humanist Manifesto II
The next century can be and should be the humanistic century. Dramatic
scientific, technological, and ever-accelerating social and political changes
crowd our awareness. We have virtually conquered the planet, explored the moon,
overcome the natural limits of travel and communication; we stand at the dawn of
a new age, ready to move farther into space and perhaps inhabit other planets.
Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty,
markedly reduce disease, extend our life-span, significantly modify our
behavior, alter the course of human evolution and cultural development, unlock
vast new powers, and provide humankind with unparalleled opportunity for
achieving an abundant and meaningful life.
The future is, however, filled with dangers. In learning to apply the
scientific method to nature and human life, we have opened the door to
ecological damage, over-population, dehumanizing institutions, totalitarian
repression, and nuclear and bio- chemical disaster. Faced with apocalyptic
prophesies and doomsday scenarios, many flee in despair from reason and embrace
irrational cults and theologies of withdrawal and retreat.
Traditional moral codes and newer irrational cults both fail to meet the
pressing needs of today and tomorrow. False "theologies of hope" and messianic
ideologies, substituting new dogmas for old, cannot cope with existing world
realities. They separate rather than unite peoples.
Humanity, to survive, requires bold and daring measures. We need to extend
the uses of scientific method, not renounce them, to fuse reason with compassion
in order to build constructive social and moral values. Confronted by many
possible futures, we must decide which to pursue. The ultimate goal should be
the fulfillment of the potential for growth in each human personality -- not
for the favored few, but for all of humankind. Only a shared world and global
measures will suffice.
A humanist outlook will tap the creativity of each human being and provide
the vision and courage for us to work together. This outlook emphasizes the role
human beings can play in their own spheres of action. The decades ahead call for
dedicated, clear- minded men and women able to marshal the will, intelligence,
and cooperative skills for shaping a desirable future. Humanism can provide the
purpose and inspiration that so many seek; it can give personal meaning and
significance to human life.
Many kinds of humanism exist in the contemporary world. The varieties and
emphases of naturalistic humanism include "scientific," "ethical," "democratic,"
"religious," and "Marxist" humanism. Free thought, atheism, agnosticism,
skepticism, deism, rationalism, ethical culture, and liberal religion all claim
to be heir to the humanist tradition. Humanism traces its roots from ancient
China, classical Greece and Rome, through the Renaissance and the Enlightenment,
to the scientific revolution of the modern world. But views that merely reject
theism are not equivalent to humanism. They lack commitment to the positive
belief in the possibilities of human progress and to the values central to it.
Many within religious groups, believing in the future of humanism, now claim
humanist credentials. Humanism is an ethical process through which we all can
move, above and beyond the divisive particulars, heroic personalities, dogmatic
creeds, and ritual customs of past religions or their mere negation.
We affirm a set of common principles that can serve as a basis for united
action -- positive principles relevant to the present human condition. They are
a design for a secular society on a planetary scale.
For these reasons, we submit this new Humanist Manifesto for the future of
humankind; for us, it is a vision of hope, a direction for satisfying
FIRST: In the best sense, religion may inspire
dedication to the highest ethical ideals. The cultivation of moral devotion
and creative imagination is an expression of genuine "spiritual" experience
We believe, however, that traditional dogmatic or authoritarian religions
that place revelation, God, ritual, or creed above human needs and experience
do a disservice to the human species. Any account of nature should pass the
tests of scientific evidence; in our judgment, the dogmas and myths of
traditional religions do not do so. Even at this late date in human history,
certain elementary facts based upon the critical use of scientific reason have
to be restated. We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a
supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of
survival and fulfillment of the human race. As nontheists, we begin with
humans not God, nature not deity. Nature may indeed be broader and deeper than
we now know; any new discoveries, however, will but enlarge our knowledge of
Some humanists believe we should reinterpret traditional religions and
reinvest them with meanings appropriate to the current situation. Such
redefinitions, however, often perpetuate old dependencies and escapisms; they
easily become obscurantist, impeding the free use of the intellect. We need,
instead, radically new human purposes and goals.
We appreciate the need to preserve the best ethical teachings in the
religious traditions of humankind, many of which we share in common. But we
reject those features of traditional religious morality that deny humans a
full appreciation of their own potentialities and responsibilities.
Traditional religions often offer solace to humans, but, as often, they
inhibit humans from helping themselves or experiencing their full
potentialities. Such institutions, creeds, and rituals often impede the will
to serve others. Too often traditional faiths encourage dependence rather than
independence, obedience rather than affirmation, fear rather than courage.
More recently they have generated concerned social action, with many signs of
relevance appearing in the wake of the "God Is Dead" theologies. But we can
discover no divine purpose or providence for the human species. While there is
much that we do not know, humans are responsible for what we are or will
become. No deity will save us; we must save ourselves.
SECOND: Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal
damnation are both illusory and harmful. They distract humans from present
concerns, from self-actualization, and from rectifying social injustices.
Modern science discredits such historic concepts as the "ghost in the machine"
and the "separable soul." Rather, science affirms that the human species is an
emergence from natural evolutionary forces. As far as we know, the total
personality is a function of the biological organism transacting in a social
and cultural context. There is no credible evidence that life survives the
death of the body. We continue to exist in our progeny and in the way that our
lives have influenced others in our culture.
Traditional religions are surely not the only obstacles to human progress.
Other ideologies also impede human advance. Some forms of political doctrine,
for instance, function religiously, reflecting the worst features of
orthodoxy and authoritarianism, especially when they sacrifice individuals on
the altar of Utopian promises. Purely economic and political viewpoints,
whether capitalist or communist, often function as religious and ideological
dogma. Although humans undoubtedly need economic and political goals, they
also need creative values by which to live.
THIRD: We affirm that moral values derive their
source from human experience. Ethics is autonomous and situational needing no
theological or ideological sanction. Ethics stems from human need and
interest. To deny this distorts the whole basis of life. Human life has
meaning because we create and develop our futures. Happiness and the creative
realization of human needs and desires, individually and in shared enjoyment,
are continuous themes of humanism. We strive for the good life, here and now.
The goal is to pursue life's enrichment despite debasing forces of vulgarization, commercialization, and dehumanization.
FOURTH: Reason and intelligence are the most effective
instruments that humankind possesses. There is no substitute: neither faith
nor passion suffices in itself. The controlled use of scientific methods,
which have transformed the natural and social sciences since the Renaissance,
must be extended further in the solution of human problems. But reason must be
tempered by humility, since no group has a monopoly of wisdom or virtue. Nor
is there any guarantee that all problems can be solved or all questions
answered. Yet critical intelligence, infused by a sense of human caring, is
the best method that humanity has for resolving problems. Reason should be
balanced with compassion and empathy and the whole person fulfilled. Thus, we
are not advocating the use of scientific intelligence independent of or in
opposition to emotion, for we believe in the cultivation of feeling and love.
As science pushes back the boundary of the known, humankind's sense of wonder
is continually renewed, and art, poetry, and music find their places, along
with religion and ethics.
FIFTH: The preciousness and dignity of the
individual person is a central humanist value. Individuals should be
encouraged to realize their own creative talents and desires. We reject all
religious, ideological, or moral codes that denigrate the individual, suppress
freedom, dull intellect, dehumanize personality. We believe in maximum
individual autonomy consonant with social responsibility. Although science can
account for the causes of behavior, the possibilities of individual freedom of
choice exist in human life and should be increased.
SIXTH: In the area of sexuality, we believe that
intolerant attitudes, often cultivated by orthodox religions and puritanical
cultures, unduly repress sexual conduct. The right to birth control, abortion,
and divorce should be recognized. While we do not approve of exploitive,
denigrating forms of sexual expression, neither do we wish to prohibit, by law
or social sanction, sexual behavior between consenting adults. The many
varieties of sexual exploration should not in themselves be considered "evil."
Without countenancing mindless permissiveness or unbridled promiscuity, a
civilized society should be a tolerant one. Short of harming others or
compelling them to do likewise, individuals should be permitted to express
their sexual proclivities and pursue their life-styles as they desire. We wish
to cultivate the development of a responsible attitude toward sexuality, in
which humans are not exploited as sexual objects, and in which intimacy,
sensitivity, respect, and honesty in interpersonal relations are encouraged.
Moral education for children and adults is an important way of developing
awareness and sexual maturity.
SEVENTH: To enhance freedom and dignity the
individual must experience a full range of civil liberties in all societies.
This includes freedom of speech and the press, political democracy, the legal
right of opposition to governmental policies, fair judicial process, religious
liberty, freedom of association, and artistic, scientific, and cultural
freedom. It also includes a recognition of an individual's right to die with
dignity, euthanasia, and the right to suicide. We oppose the increasing
invasion of privacy, by whatever means, in both totalitarian and democratic
societies. We would safeguard, extend, and implement the principles of human
freedom evolved from the Magna Carta to the Bill of Rights, the Rights of Man,
and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
EIGHTH: We are committed to an open and democratic
society. We must extend participatory democracy in its true sense to the
economy, the school, the family, the workplace, and voluntary associations.
Decision-making must be decentralized to include widespread involvement of
people at all levels -- social, political, and economic. All persons should
have a voice in developing the values and goals that determine their lives.
Institutions should be responsive to expressed desires and needs. The
conditions of work, education, devotion, and play should be humanized.
Alienating forces should be modified or eradicated and bureaucratic structures
should be held to a minimum. People are more important than decalogues, rules,
proscriptions, or regulations.
NINTH: The separation of church and state and the
separation of ideology and state are imperatives. The state should encourage
maximum freedom for different moral, political, religious, and social values
in society. It should not favor any particular religious bodies through the
use of public monies, nor espouse a single ideology and function thereby as an
instrument of propaganda or oppression, particularly against dissenters.
TENTH: Humane societies should evaluate economic systems
not by rhetoric or ideology, but by whether or not they increase economic
well-being for all individuals and groups, minimize poverty and hardship,
increase the sum of human satisfaction, and enhance the quality of life. Hence
the door is open to alternative economic systems. We need to democratize the
economy and judge it by its responsiveness to human needs, testing results in
terms of the common good.
ELEVENTH: The principle of moral equality must be
furthered through elimination of all discrimination based upon race, religion,
sex, age, or national origin. This means equality of opportunity and
recognition of talent and merit. Individuals should be encouraged to
contribute to their own betterment. If unable, then society should provide
means to satisfy their basic economic, health, and cultural needs, including,
wherever resources make possible, a minimum guaranteed annual income. We are
concerned for the welfare of the aged, the infirm, the disadvantaged, and also
for the outcasts -- the mentally retarded, abandoned, or abused children, the
handicapped, prisoners, and addicts -- for all who are neglected or ignored by
society. Practicing humanists should make it their vocation to humanize
We believe in the right to universal education. Everyone has a right to the
cultural opportunity to fulfill his or her unique capacities and talents. The
schools should foster satisfying and productive living. They should be open at
all levels to any and all; the achievement of excellence should be encouraged.
Innovative and experimental forms of education are to be welcomed. The energy
and idealism of the young deserve to be appreciated and channeled to
We deplore racial, religious, ethnic, or class antagonisms. Although we
believe in cultural diversity and encourage racial and ethnic pride, we reject
separations which promote alienation and set people and groups against each
other; we envision an integrated community where people have a maximum
opportunity for free and voluntary association.
We are critical of sexism or sexual chauvinism -- male or female. We
believe in equal rights for both women and men to fulfill their unique careers
and potentialities as they see fit, free of invidious
TWELFTH: We deplore the division of humankind on
nationalistic grounds. We have reached a turning point in human history where
the best option is to transcend the limits of national sovereignty and to move
toward the building of a world community in which all sectors of the human
family can participate. Thus we look to the development of a system of world
law and a world order based upon transnational federal government. This would
appreciate cultural pluralism and diversity. It would not exclude pride in
national origins and accomplishments nor the handling of regional problems on
a regional basis. Human progress, however, can no longer be achieved by
focusing on one section of the world, Western or Eastern, developed or
underdeveloped. For the first time in human history, no part of humankind can
be isolated from any other. Each person's future is in some way linked to all.
We thus reaffirm a commitment to the building of world community, at the same
time recognizing that this commits us to some hard choices.
Humanity As a Whole
THIRTEENTH: This world community must renounce the resort
to violence and force as a method of solving international disputes. We
believe in the peaceful adjudication of differences by international courts
and by the development of the arts of negotiation and compromise. War is
obsolete. So is the use of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons. It is a
planetary imperative to reduce the level of military expenditures and turn
these savings to peaceful and people-oriented uses.
FOURTEENTH: The world community must engage in cooperative
planning concerning the use of rapidly depleting resources. The planet earth
must be considered a single ecosystem. Ecological damage, resource depletion,
and excessive population growth must be checked by international concord. The
cultivation and conservation of nature is a moral value; we should perceive
ourselves as integral to the sources of our being in nature. We must free our
world from needless pollution and waste, responsibly guarding and creating
wealth, both natural and human. Exploitation of natural resources, uncurbed
by social conscience, must end.
FIFTEENTH: The problems of economic growth and development
can no longer be resolved by one nation alone; they are worldwide in scope. It
is the moral obligation of the developed nations to provide -- through an
international authority that safeguards human rights -- massive technical,
agricultural, medical, and economic assistance, including birth control
techniques, to the developing portions of the globe. World poverty must cease.
Hence extreme disproportions in wealth, income, and economic growth should be
reduced on a worldwide basis.
SIXTEENTH: Technology is a vital key to human progress and
development. We deplore any neo-romantic efforts to condemn indiscriminately
all technology and science or to counsel retreat from its further extension
and use for the good of humankind. We would resist any moves to censor basic
scientific research on moral, political, or social grounds. Technology must,
however, be carefully judged by the consequences of its use; harmful and
destructive changes should be avoided. We are particularly disturbed when
technology and bureaucracy control, manipulate, or modify human beings without
their consent. Technological feasibility does not imply social or cultural
SEVENTEENTH: We must expand communication and
transportation across frontiers. Travel restrictions must cease. The world
must be open to diverse political, ideological, and moral viewpoints and
evolve a worldwide system of television and radio for information and
education. We thus call for full international cooperation in culture,
science, the arts, and technology across ideological borders. We must learn to
live openly together or we shall perish together.
IN CLOSING: The world cannot wait for a
reconciliation of competing political or economic systems to solve its
problems. These are the times for men and women of goodwill to further the
building of a peaceful and prosperous world. We urge that parochial loyalties
and inflexible moral and religious ideologies be transcended. We urge
recognition of the common humanity of all people. We further urge the use of
reason and compassion to produce the kind of world we want -- a world in which
peace, prosperity, freedom, and happiness are widely shared. Let us not
abandon that vision in despair or cowardice. We are responsible for what we
are or will be. Let us work together for a humane world by means commensurate
with humane ends. Destructive ideological differences among communism,
capitalism, socialism, conservatism, liberalism, and radicalism should be
overcome. Let us call for an end to terror and hatred. We will survive and
prosper only in a world of shared humane values. We can initiate new
directions for humankind; ancient rivalries can be superseded by broad-based
cooperative efforts. The commitment to tolerance, understanding, and peaceful
negotiation does not necessitate acquiescence to the status quo nor the
damming up of dynamic and revolutionary forces. The true revolution is
occurring and can continue in countless nonviolent adjustments. But this
entails the willingness to step forward onto new and expanding plateaus. At
the present juncture of history, commitment to all humankind is the highest
commitment of which we are capable; it transcends the narrow allegiances of
church, state, party, class, or race in moving toward a wider vision of human
potentiality. What more daring a goal for humankind than for each person to
become, in ideal as well as practice, a citizen of a world community. It is a
classical vision; we can now give it new vitality. Humanism thus interpreted
is a moral force that has time on its side. We believe that humankind has the
potential, intelligence, goodwill, and cooperative skill to implement this
commitment in the decades ahead.
We, the undersigned, while not necessarily endorsing every detail of the
above, pledge our general support to Humanist Manifesto II for the future of
humankind. These affirmations are not a final credo or dogma but an expression
of a living and growing faith. We invite others in all lands to join us in
further developing and working for these goals.
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